Saturday, October 1, 2011



Oh the delicious irony, so dear to the heart of a writer and I was right in the middle of it.

In my agnostic youth, I was a fiery columnist for a university journal, affably titled, “It’s All Good.”  It cerebrally embraced multiculturalism as a panacea for the world’s ills.  We cried out that people were victims of damnable doctrine which was, by its nature, competitive. Tolerance seemed especially difficult with imperialistic religious dogma, especially the ideas of sin and salvation. 
Later, as contributor to the “Pen Mightier Than Sword” an international writers-for-peace blog dedicated to helping all religions co-exist, I realized that as long as one group claims some superiority of truth or morals, there can be no compromise and peace is impossible.  With competing ideas one wins and one loses. So we better come up with a good idea that will win against all these religious beliefs or the world will be perpetually at war.  This propelled me into embracing ardent anti-theism. 
Recently, I was hired by the UN to promote the agenda that there is one tolerant idea, “COEXIST” that will bring peace and will peacefully silence all other intolerant ideas. The soul of the movement is respect; respect each other’s gods, each other’s beliefs and moral values.  
With the upcoming COEXIST: Looking Forward Conference being held in Brussels, I was given the task of updating the words for the opening song, sung by an interfaith children’s choir. So, my atheistic pen--wielded for decades--began rewriting “Jesus Loves Me”  Laughable, but easy enough since the COEXIST committee accepted, “Being” as the universal name for God, Allah, Gaia, Buddah, etc... (inching out the anglo-centric “Providence.”) I scribbled:
“Being loves us, this we know,
For ancient writings tells us so.” 
Horrific. I shuttered on so many levels. I was relieved to find the committee decided it should be sung in French and the task was passed on to the Paris branch. My new project was to write the history of the United Nations COEXIST movement from an American perspective to be part of the conference’s resources.
Again, the irony struck me as I recalled the first time I wrote about the movement. I was just a kid, already used to being jetted all over the world as a peace-demonstration reporter.  Held in the desert of Sedona, Arizona, the rally was much larger than expected. COEXIST4Peace, the American branch of the movement, had encouraged all religions to participate. 
Unfortunately, a group of men with JN3:16 tattooed on their forearms got into a debate with some neo-pagans about how one is saved. This particular branch of neo-pagans believed they alone lived after death, evidently no Christians were allowed. When the Christian insisted that all are saved through Jesus alone and began singing the hymn, “Jesus Saves” a fight broke out where several were hospitalized. 
Smugly, I reported that doctrines about who saves can get you killed.
After similar incidences--including one skirmish about the reality of an ever-burning hell, all debate was banned from the rallies. Then distributing tracts that promoted a religion was banned. Because of that the Mormons must have decided they couldn’t co-exist anymore, because I never again saw a visible presence of their church.
Then at another event in Boston, a lesbian bishop was asked to offer a blessing over an ecumenical communion and when the Catholic priests did not participate, the LGBT group was insulted and formally boycotted the next few events.  After the UN strong-armed the U.S. bishops to offered a pathetically weak apology, the group became even more inflamed and began protesting during the COEXIST rallies worldwide. Homophobes began counter-protesting and again, casualties became common.
The following weeks, I began a full frontal assault on the cancerous position that there is something called “sin” that can be universally identified. To authentically co-exist that bloodthirsty belief must be evolved out of us, by compulsion if necessary.  
By far, the worst rally was in Cairo when the speaker went long and conflicted with the evening Moslem prayer. As the speaker paused while the worshippers placed their prayer rugs on the ground and prostrated themselves, two well-meaning American Jewish women, caught in the ecumenical moment, knelt beside the Moslems and placed their hands on the men’s back to pray with them. They didn’t know that their behavior not only invalidated the Moslem’s prayers, but the fact that their female bodies were not fully covered was an insult to Allah. When this was reported on Al-Jezeera, the Middle East cascaded into bedlam, synagogues were torched, fighting broke out in the streets and dozens of people were killed.
Eventually, after a year to calm down and regroup, the UN prepared for a new wave of the COEXIST campaign. This time, with a more aggressive platform for peace. 
A small think-tank was brought in and their COEXIST stealth plan was approved.  We watched it unfold all during the early part of this century without even realizing it.
Their first step advanced the idea of a voluntary PRBS--Personalized Religious Beliefs System. This international campaign promoted the idea that to COEXIST all religion should be a private matter between you and your god (now, Being). 
The PRBS committee retained some celebrities to star in a reality show about how to create your own “designer religion” based upon your private covenant with your Being.  American forefathers’ writings were misquoted or even fabricated to seem as if they encourage a patriotic, individualized spirituality. PRBS was suggested as the perfect solution to preserved the sacred separation of church and state. 
As an incentive, the PRBS would allow one to voluntarily register one’s personal moral code with the government to be kept in an international data file so that the person could gain a tax-exempt status as his or her own religion. (Of course that status was revoked later.) The fine print stated that you could only hold one religion at a time and all non-PRBS religious affiliations must be relinquished.
The brilliant second step was this: during a presidential campaign, a “Fair Speech” bill was passed that required political advertising to give equal time to the opposition. A religious clause was added at the last minute that required the same from religious advertising. That discouraged fundamentalist billboard ads when they realized they would have to pay for another billboard nearby with the opposite view.  
Simultaneously, a “Truth in Advertising” law was passed that demanded fact-checking at every presidential speech, commercial and financial disclosure. Again a clause slipped in also demanded this of religious organizations. Since churches had no way to prove their doctrinal positions, they could no longer publicly advertise in any way. 
But to show good faith to all the religious Americans who had been growing unnerved with what they perceived as these new anti-religion laws,  The Golden Rule was quickly sent through congress and signed by the president, as seen in internet photos, with a back drop of grinning clergy. 
Then celebrities went public alongside well-known religious leaders to promote The Golden Rule as a brilliant resolution to achieve peace through a respectful citizenship. It was a kumbaya moment as clerics and movie stars linked arm-in-arm to spell out the word COEXIST. 
The details later revealed that The Golden Rule meant a ban of religious hate-speech including proselytization--touted as terribly discourteous and a public annoyance. It outlawed divisive speech about an actual heaven or hell; as well as public prayers as discriminatory indoctrination. Oral and written speech could not denigrating anyone’s sincerely held values; the most legally protected being those registered at the PRBS. 
In a Green Initiative a proviso was slipped in that outlawed new permits to build churches, renovate or add additions to existing church structures.
COEXIST’s next step was to foment (in reality, employ) zealots to vandalize opposing churches. When the crimes were against major religions, it was reported as understandable actions from frustrated and victimized minority believers. When violence was against the minority religions, it was reported as expected considering the long history of inexcusable, abusive domination of religion itself.

International commercials aired deriding public religion. Some will recall the famous black and white mock Victorian-era commercial where friends sharing tea in a parlor blushed over religious comments as if they were shameful, sexually-explicit jokes. 
In recent memory, COEXIST4Peace sponsored The Anti-Simony Act. Nicknamed “Religion Must be Free,” by a large group of people claiming to have very conservative and generous PRBS’s. The act made it illegal for anyone to profit from religion in any way. No earning a living from book sales, religious publications or materials. 
Soon after that all citizens were required to have a PRBS licensed by the state. 
The government anticipated a backlash to these laws and prepared for religion to go underground.  A new branch of the feds was discreetly created to root out subversive charismatic leaders who might brainwash a gullible and uneducated public. 

The feds arrested some young men with illegal religious downloads on their computers. Clearly bigoted passages from the Bible inferred that marriage is a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman subverting the COEXIST Marriage Act which legalizes all relationships as long as one entity (of any species) is judged able to maintain a stable commitment for at least one month.
Coexist international issued resolutions that encouraged countries to enact laws denouncing circumcision as child abuse and banning clothing such as head scarves, veils, Hassidic curls and skull caps. Nothing  could be publicly displayed to identify one’s religious, so in defiance some young Jewish men were jailed when they sewed the Star of David on their jackets.
For almost a decade COEXIST4Peace held back from any more legislation to give society time to adjust to this new privatized religion. 
We encountered pockets of religious prejudice as local Taiwanese illegally banned together and kidnapped child prostitutes in order to “rescue” them. Reporters suggested these religious outlaws believed that paying for sex with a child was immoral. This moral stance had not been stated in their PRBS, and even if it had, no moral beliefs can go beyond the person. 

Their unregistered belief clashed with attitudes that have historically been lax towards the practice. Since COEXIST legally protects all beliefs equally, the Taiwanese outlaws were eventually apprehended and jailed. 
No matter how much effort went into educating the populations about peaceful co-existence of religious views, the UN was shocked when a international poll revealed that 87% of people still considered religious views other than their own as false or even evil; 34% conceded that they secretly belonged to a religious-oriented organization that proselytized. 
Almost all of the group polled acknowledged that history books had influenced their decision to believe a doctrine other than the ones they originally registered in their PRBS. Some admitted they believed religious organizations were busy preparing for a public resurgence.  
Because COEXIST was run primarily by educated atheists and anti-theists whose philosophy is based in objective, scientific realities, we were not prepared to encounter the ignorance ingrained into the vast human population. Cultivated beneath the idea of right and wrong, good and bad, heaven and hell, morals and “sin” religion had programmed this deep bigotry into brain synapses in such a way that it was virtually impossible to reverse the thinking patterns. 
History supports this idea when we look at the Middle East. The religious wars that have plagued that region for a millennia can be blamed on an unfiltered ingestion of their sacred scriptures.  This generational bigotry must be defused before and during the formative years. So the implementation of an international child-rescue effort was initiated. 
Almost immediately, a resolution was brought before the UN international panel of religious scholars, to stop the false and distorting historical referencing in children’s education about religion. 

UN Bill H6843 “Getting History Right” passed unanimously. It was introduced by the COEXIST chairman reading a quote from Napoleon, “History is a set of lies agreed upon” and urged the international community to begin the process of reconstructing an authentic history, rather than the lies we have accepted through the years.
All sacred writings must have clearly on the cover a warning that nothing contained therein is historically verifiable and it is a fictitious work of hate speech written to promote intolerance and invoke hostility against the Golden Rule. 
All upcoming educational books were to erase references to religion. 
At the UN announcement, there was a standing ovation when Mein Kampf and Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies was placed on the “Stupid People Read This Book” list. 
There was tentative scattered applause when Foxe’s Books of Martyrs, as well as books about the Inquisition, and the Jewish holocaust were included in the list. These, again, promoted a false history that incites religious bigotry. 
The panel assured everyone that the legality of the list of banned books was based not upon censorship, which they were absolutely, strongly against, but because readers assumed the works were part of some legitimate history. Once the new history books had been written and taught, at some future date, these books would again be released under the heading of fiction.
The only legislation that met a great deal of resistance was the “Children’s Right to Free Thought” act that required all parents to obtain a license to teach their children religion. Parents had to undergo rigorous training and supervision so that children would have the same access to all perspectives. No child would be allowed to be baptized or claim a religious preference till voting age, and at that time they would undergo an anti-indoctrination course before being allowed to legally register their Personalized Religious Belief System.   
For a time, personalized religious beliefs were registered by the state under the name of the person, for example,  registered: Jane Lois Doe PRBS. Descriptive names (such as Jehovah believer, Aryan, Zen) were deemed too divisive. Parents then began to name their boys Calvin, Mohammed, Buddah, Christian, Moses; girls were named Grace and Faith. Even the attempt at being enigmatic naming offspring “Tulip” or Bjornagain” failed and the UN issued a list of acceptable names for children. To prevent a person feeling his private, personalized religious rights ha been violated, a clause was added that allowed a monthly rental for non-approved names, the fee going into  an anti-discrimination fund. 
From then on Personalized Religious Belief Systems were issued by random lottery number--as it was now illegal to name your religion.  
Whew, a few concentrated notes about the last fifty years of the movement--at least what I can remember at the moment, jotted down in a hurry. And now, I am caught up to today.
Pondering my reply, if asked how I would take COEXIST forward (which certainly will never happen). Here are my initial thoughts anyway:
Universal tolerance will be an eternal, yet necessary human-rights struggle.  Peace can be maintained through the equal protection of all multicultural beliefs. 
The overwhelming success of the Personalized Religious Belief System has proven a good solution to keep out of the public sector an imperialistic and dogmatic morality.
Threatening expressions such as “evil” and “sin” have no place in a civilized world. Combative faith that claims salvation exclusively through one god or truth must be vigilantly contained until eradicated. 
COEXIST is convinced that our sacred Being-given rights are best expressed by not expressing them. Indeed my only suggestion for another further step would be to convince people that religion is, in fact, no more than personal thought and that any real god would be private, unspoken thought itself. For eternal peace, “Being” must never leave the confines of the individual. This is the only way that I can see COEXIST remaining successful in the future.
Note: There is a huge difference between the idea of coexisting and unity. The coexist movement divides us into little units of fearful silent neutrality, which supports the tyranny of Relativism and all gods equally. Coexisting uses the veil of respect and tolerance to intimidate and silence its opponents. It's inevitable that the coexist movement become dictatorial. 

Unity brings us together under ONE truth and one God. 

You must choose which you will submit to, for we will have to submit to one. Anarchy, autonomy and freedom is promised in one--but after entering that deceptive facade, it enslaves. Obedience is required of the other--but it brings joyful citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. One brings death, the other brings life. It isn't about you and your rights. The Devil doesn't care. And he sets out the bait of liberty and freedom to catch you.